is not handed to us ready-made."
voice belongs to Rebecca Walker, who is trying to answer
the question: What is the universal appeal of her memoir,
"Black White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting
not going to find (meaning), necessarily, in an American
flag or in a very simplified, symbolic way. We have to make
real meaning, make our own relationships, and find a more
profound spiritual ground to stand on. And that transcends
race and culture and class and country."
hardcover version of Walker's book drew critical raves and
became a best seller. Now the paperback is out.
an interview last week from her home in Berkeley, Calif.,
Walker chatted about the difficulties she experienced while
growing up. They included trying to fit in with segments
of American culture that found her too black or too white:
Rebecca Leventhal Walker's parents are African-American
writer Alice Walker and Caucasian lawyer Mel Leventhal.
spare her any self-pity; that is one thing Walker never
felt and does not want now.
most traditional narratives of mixed-race people, there's
the sense that the cultural exclusion is overwhelming, almost
deadly. ... I wanted to write a story in which there was
the same difficulty, but I also wanted to write about how
I was able to find meaning in that."
elegant prose chronicles her effort to find a place in both
her mother's and father's worlds -- an effort complicated
by her parents' divorce, which left young Rebecca moving
back and forth between different cultures within that culture
we call America.
the book is "not just about being mixed race,"
Walker said. "It's not just about being a child
of divorce. It's about finding one's center in a very complex,
constantly changing universe, and that is something we are
all participating in, that journey. And I just hope the
book can be a friend to people who are on that journey."
truth is that all of us feel at times we don't fit in somewhere,
whether it's on a new job or in a new city or, in Walker's
case, in situations that seem somehow narrower than our
had that sense of no matter where I was, no matter which
community, there was a part of me that always liked something
that community didn't approve of, whether it was music or
food or movies or a word or a way of talking or a way of
moving my body. When I was listening to Prince with my friends,
I couldn't say, 'Oh, did you hear that Led Zeppelin song?'
references were much wider. I could speak these different
languages of culture, of place. The people who I visited
in each place only had their one language because they weren't
more like a blessing than a curse, as Walker would be the
first to tell you. And she's also optimistic that society
as a whole can move beyond judging its individuals mostly
that whole question of how we can begin to see each other
in a profound way, as opposed to these physical readings:
'What do you look like, what car do you drive, how old are
cheating ourselves of a much richer experience."